Tuesday 1 December, 2020

PAHO says tourism leaves Caribbean vulnerable to COVID-19

The resumption of tourism for some islands within the Caribbean region has been linked to a spike in COVID-19 cases.  

PAHO Director Dr Carissa Etienne said this does not come as a surprise but offers an important lesson.  

Speaking during the weekly PAHO media conference, Etienne said the Caribbean region continues to grapple with two issues: travel and restrictions.  

“When people travel between countries so does the virus. In the Caribbean several countries which had virtually no cases experienced spikes as tourism resumed,” said the PAHO director.  

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She noted that opening up too early gives the virus more room to spread and puts populations at greater risk.  

It was also pointed out that many places within and outside the region applied travel measures that have limited impact.  

“Relying on lab tests for travellers is expensive, it is hard to implement and is of limited impact in controlling the international spread of the virus,” said the PAHO Director.  

Etienne stated that countries must ensure individuals who are sick or suspect they are sick with COVID and their contacts, be quickly identified and isolated to minimise the chances of others getting infected prior to departure as well as after arrival.  

The PAHO director said all countries should also work to limit travel for those who have active symptoms or have been recently exposed.  

PAHO Director Dr Carissa Etienne

Meanwhile on the issue of hosting elections during the COVID-19 pandemic, Etienne said governments must lead national efforts to ensure public health measures are in place for in person voting.  

Citizens must also be aware of how to maintain their safety and that of others at the ballot box 

She added voting is critical to the social fabric of the region which is why the OAS and PAHO have issued detailed guidance to help governments minimise the risk of transmission.  

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